Why is My Turtle Not Eating (And What You Can Do)?

First time turtle owners may be anxious to find that their new turtle hasn’t eaten for a couple of days. But it is actually quite a normal thing for your turtle not to want to eat for a day or two. However, if you’ve noticed that your turtle hasn’t been eating for several days in a row, this may be indicative of a larger problem.

So why isn’t your turtle eating? And what can you do to help them get their appetite back?

Why Your Turtle Isn’t Eating

There are actually several reasons that your turtle may have lost their appetite. So first, we need to figure out what exactly is going on before you start to try and coax them to eat again.

Even things such as changes to their feeding schedule, their environment, as well as their diet can lead to putting your turtle off their dinner.

Varied Diet

One of the reasons your turtle might not be eating is because you’re giving them the same food all the time. Offering them different foods can often make your turtle want to eat again. Perhaps you’ve stuck to a commercially prepared turtle diet? 

In this case, your turtle may want live food such as crickets, earthworms, mealworms, or snails. Other turtles may even eat larger prey such as feeder fish or small feeder mice. Put off by live insects? Canned insects are also a great option to help vary your turtle’s diet.

There are a couple of other things you can try to vary your turtle’s diet. You can give them fresh food such as cucumbers, carrots, collard greens, mushrooms, or even leafy vegetables such as lettuce or spinach. Fresh fruit is another thing you can try. We’d recommend opting for strawberries, bananas, raspberries, or grapes.

Turtles like bright colors. You can opt for the addition of things such as dandelions and rose petals as well as the fresh fruit. You could also try soaking your turtle’s dry food in fruit juice or in the water from a can of tuna. 

Stressed Turtle

Just bought a new turtle? Then that may be why they’re not eating. Chances are your turtle is stressed from the new changes to its environment. 

It’s also worth noting that if you handle your turtle a lot, this can stress them out. They’re not really suited for everyday handling, and aquatic turtles don’t like being handled a lot. If you do want to handle your pet fairly often, then you’ll be better off opting for a tortoise.

Poor lighting and poor water quality can also cause your turtle to be stressed.

The Right Lighting

Your turtle will need species-appropriate lighting in its environment. For most pet turtle species this will typically be between 12 to 14 hours of light every day. This will then need to be followed by a night cycle of around 10 to 12 hours. 

Your turtle will need UVB lighting so that they can properly process the nutrients they ingest. A lack of this lighting can make them lose their appetite and become lethargic.

The Right Temperature

You’d be surprised how much a factor like temperature could play a role in your turtle’s lack of appetite. Turtles like to inhabit areas of a specific temperature, so if your aquarium isn’t warm enough for their needs, it can cause your turtle to lose their appetite. 

Your turtle will need areas in its tank that have different temperatures so they can move between them as much they like. The ideal temperature will vary from species to species. It will be worth doing your research to find out which temperatures your turtle prefers so that you can keep them happy.

Check for Signs of Illness

If you’re sure that the aquarium environment is ideal for your turtle, and that their diet is perfectly fine, then you will need to look for any signs of illness.

Common symptoms of a potential respiratory infection can include difficulty breathing, sneezing, discharge from the nose and eyes which may also appear swollen or irritated, wheezing, and lethargy.

Are there any discolored areas of your turtle’s shell? This could be a sign they are suffering from a lack of vitamin A in their diet. If you can’t see any sign of feces in the aquarium, this could be a sign that your turtle is constipated. Or if you spot any worms lurking in your turtle’s feces, they may have a parasitic infection.

Female turtles with a lack of appetite may be suffering from dystocia. This is when she is unable to pass her eggs out of her body properly. She may appear to be fine at first, but dystocia can show itself through a lack of appetite, lethargy, and eventual weight loss.

If you suspect your turtle may be suffering from an illness, it’s best to take them to the vet.

Using Water

Some turtles are just fussy, and like to eat their food underwater. If your turtle hasn’t been eating for several days, you can try adding their food to the watery area of their aquarium. Hopefully this will spark your turtle’s appetite and get them eating again.

You can fill a spray bottle with water and gently mist your turtle. This is because in the wild, turtles like to eat when it’s raining, because they know this is when the worms are easier to get to.

More Calcium

A lack of calcium in your turtle’s diet could also be a reason why they don’t want to eat. You can add a calcium supplement to their food to help them get what they need.

In Summary

So there you have it! You now know that there are several reasons that your turtle might not be eating their food. If you have a new turtle, it’s best to let them get used to their environment first before resorting to taking them to the vet.

You should also ensure that they have the appropriate environment in their tank so that they feel more comfortable.